Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sellouts and Fads (Writers' Edition)

Think about the two most popular Young Adult series (books, mostly) in the past few years. Can you name them?
That's right: the answers is Twilight and The Hunger Games.

Now, think about what genre are the other popular YA books from the past few years:
Once again, that's right, it's usually supernatural romance (or urban fantasy heavy on the romance) or dystopias.

Why? Well, because of the simple rule of business demand & supply.

After Twilight and The Hunger Games became popular (because they were new - sort of -  and the people were excited about them) there was a demand for similar literature and the publishing industries supplied.

But you know - that's their job.

As a writer, however, you are not obliged to supply anyone's demand for anything.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that writers shouldn't be telling stories about broken societies or human girls falling for inhuman boys, possibly with some adventure going on the side. I am just saying: before you write the next Twilight or the next Hunger Games, or even the next 50 Shades of Grey or the next Next, ask yourself this simple question: Are you writing because it's a story you want to tell (and most likely will be sell, because there's demand for it right now), or are you doing just because there's demand for it right now?

I was reading an essay in the book 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey (kindle editions available on Amazon), which coincidentally talks about the most popular book in the adult romance genre that started another fad (kinky e-rom). An essay (or a few) in this book basically advocates selling out and doing what's 'in' right now. Yeah, writers, don't keep your integrity, sell out, be like everyone else, because there's money into it!

Through the years I have wanted to write:
1. A better Twilight
2. The next Hunger Games
3. Something similiar to 50 shades, but better
4. Something similar to Heroes

And whenever I try to start writing I have a huge creative seat-back. These days I sat down and thought to myself that I don't actually want to write something that is in so  similar to something else. Not on purpose, anyway. I want to be original. And yes, while some day I may get around to writing an YA dystopia, it won't be because it's a story I want to tell. And here are some other stories I want to tell:

1. A New Adult exploration of the relationships of  six young people (3 couples - straight, lesbian and gay) and the people in their lives
2. A haunting, ghotic-style feminist vampire story with dark themes, where the main character isn't necessarily 'nice' or 'good' or even likable, but is still redeemable.

Will they become the next big thing? I don't know, probably not, even though I like to dream they will. But you know what, once I am done and I see them published, no matter how much money they make, I will feel proud because I will have told the stories I wanted to tell and I will have kept my integrity as a writer and person.

Now, if you want to be a sellout I can't stop you - there are some definite perks to it - financial security and whatnot - but just remember this: those books I've mentioned and many books before (and after) that have also started fads, started those fads because they were original. Because the writers wanted to tell their own stories and just so it happens the public really wanted to hear that story. And then they wanted to hear it again, but a little bit differently. And again and again and... well, you get the point.

I think that at the end of the day, if you feel good about yourself, then you've won.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spousal Rape and Stockholm syndrome in Game of Thrones (Khal Drogo and Khaleesi) short

Spousal rape is a relatively new concept.

In the timeline (despite being of fantastical one) occupied by Game of Thrones it does not exist. Being married equals sex included and arrange marriages are a common practice. There is also the cultural viewpoint we must take to see the issues from all sides. For instance, in our Western culture an arrange is a dystopian nightmare, but for other cultures it is entirely different thing).

This is not in any way to say I condemn spousal rape in any context and I did not like Khal Drogo at first. However, Daenerys takes control of her marriage, life and sexuality and Khal Drogo becomes a lot more gentle with her.

Stockholm syndrome is also not applicable in that context.  Daenerys isn't anyone's slave or prisoner, in fact she becomes quite more authoritative and commanding. Not only with him (as they become equals), but with the entire tribe and even her brother, who she feared. She becomes a queen, or rather - a Khaleesi.

In fact, she was a lot more nervous and submissive at the beginning of a season, whereas by the end she is an entirely different person.

In conclusion: This is not the story of a someone coming down with a battered-wife syndrome, due to abuse and spousal rape. It is a semi-feminist tale (though with murky origins) about a young girl getting a hold of her own body, life and birthright.